How Do the Creators of an Influencer Marketing Platform Do Their Job?

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership.

S2: Hi I’m Rachel Hampton. I’m an editorial assistant here at Slate and I’m your host for the season of working for the next few episodes are going gonna be focusing on influencers taking a deep dive into an industry that’s changed from one that was really only understood by teens to one that’s now covered by journalists at The New York Times and The Atlantic. This week we’re talking to the founders of obviously Makarov ski and Max domain. Obviously is a platform that connects and represents influencers with brands and they’re basically the people behind the campaigns that we see on Instagram. They work with brands from idea conception to the final close we see on our timelines and as pretty early entrants into influencer marketing they have a really great idea of what it takes to make brand campaigns successful may join me here in the studio in New York and Max joined over the phone from San Francisco.

S3: So what’s your name and what do you do.

S4: So my name is make our whiskey. I’m the CEO and founder. Obviously we’re an influencer marketing company. We’re both a technology platform and a full service agency primarily working with the world’s largest brands.

S5: And Hi I’m Max domain. I’m the CTO and co-founder of obviously so I’ll make things happen.

S6: That’s a good way to describe it.

S3: They does so much for joining me in the studio today. I’m really excited because this is one of the parts of influencer industry that I don’t quite understand. So my first question is Where is the name come from and what exactly does the obviously platform do.

S4: The name obviously comes from a blog that I started when I was a social media manager at Gilt Groupe. It was called obviously social and a lot of social media managers in New York. I read it quite frequently and I was like oh it’s actually a good name because it really gets stuck in people’s head. So once it’s like it’s inception once you say obviously everyone you’re talking you keep saying the word obviously and they catch themselves and we should keep this name and then we drop the social from the name. Once we decided to completely focus on influencer marketing and build out the tech platform. So what tech platform does is it makes it really easy to work with hundreds to thousands of influencers at a given time while really maintaining that that connection and that relationship with each individual influencer. Because they’re people they’re not just ad units and they’re really psyched to work with these brands. So we want to make sure they have the best experience possible and also that it just goes flawlessly while still being able to do that at scale.

S7: I always like to call the platform a super power platform for us to be able to work with tons of people without lowering the quality of the interactions with all the influencers that we work with. But while enabling us to talk to a lot more people at the same time so it’s our super power platform.

S8: That’s how we call it.

S9: So tell me the story of how this platform and this company came to be. You said you started as a social media manager. I guess what’s the origin story.

S4: So I was working at a Gilt Group as a social media manager there. It was a great time to be a social media manager because brands were just investing so much in their own presence online. You know Instagram had just come out.

S10: That was back in the day.

S4: We were doing so much on Facebook. There really weren’t even that many ads on Facebook yet it was all about organic growth through brand pages and so many my friends were starting to create cool startups and were asking me to do their social media strategy. So I was like oh this could be awesome I’ll start a company called obviously social and we’ll just focus on social media management.

S11: And when my first client was Unocal and Yahoo. Which is I love there they’re awesome. I buy so many clothes. I mean really. So they had the slogan made for all at the time and they had these areas ism shirts which plugging Amazon but like a dollars you can never spend. Yeah and they gave me. I was like oh you know if I could give out a thousand of these and have people post wearing them and really encompassing the whole idea of made for all. So let’s get a really cool grandmother and the kid on the skateboard and Soho and you know the woman who lives in the Midwest all of these people to wear it and talk about it and post about it. I can use all that content and put it on your Nico’s Instagram account. So we did that and it worked really really well. And you know growth in their Instagram really spiked at the same time we realized just how hard it was to get out a thousand T-shirts to a thousand people. And so at that point I knew Max. He’s in San Francisco. We can only talk on the phone for the first like six months max. Yeah and the other. Yes. And we’re like hey how do we actually make a platform that make it really easy to give out a thousand T-shirts to 1000 influencers and you know that was five years ago now and we kind of hashed out that the plans for that and in about three hours. And that was really the basis for the company. Yeah. And then it’s been kind of a crazy crazy growth and fun.

S7: It’s a really productive free app. It’s funny it’s funny because it was it was really a regular call about a few months in of us working together trying a few ideas. And it’s one of those phone calls that started you know like nothing. And then we started getting inspired about what could be. And you know three hours later we had a full vision for what was going to happen and you know fast forward a few years later. A lot of that vision is the core of what we’ve built and what we’re doing today. So it was it was really interesting to you to see that pivotal moment.

S3: Yeah that sounds really cool. So you started about five years ago influences have really become more of a thing in the past five years. It’s been really exponential growth right. Were they really called influencers when you started and what have you seen the industry change over the past five years.

S4: Oh yeah. When. When Maxim decided to just solely focus on influencer marketing. The main reaction was what.

S12: What is that. What are you focusing on.

S4: What the. Yeah. So there is you know it was really kind blogging. At that point. But what we were seeing was you know while Instagram’s really picking up steam and normal people are creating you know these really vibrant communities around the content that they’re creating whether they have 5000 followers or 500000 followers like this is gonna be the new celebrity. You know this is this person is is their own little publication and they’re using a free platform. That’s so cool. Like what else do we do with this.

S9: How would it look from an influencers perspective. If I was to join the app like how do you get influencers onto obviously do you reach out to them. Do they reach out to you.

S11: Yeah. So we both have inbound and outbound. We have about 1000 influencers every week just signing up hearing about us from their friends.

S13: We get a lot of a lot of influencers like working with us so there are a lot of referrals which is what we love to see. And then we do a lot of recruitment for very specific types of campaigns with specific brands. So for instance we have one running sneaker company that wanted influencers in in Japan who haven’t run in the past year but like want to get back into it very specific type of person and also make sure that they’re really on brand and their aesthetic is is very much what the brand thinks as of as their customer.

S8: We put a lot of efforts in matching them with the right campaigns and vice versa. There’s a lot of tech and a lot of processes that goes into it and that goes a long way with the word of mouth on you know in the name influencer community which is kind of a small world. Everybody knows each other so you know the more effort you can put in in putting the right campaigns in the right brands in front of them but also making the tool really easy for them really limiting the amount of tedious ness and then efforts they have to put into it because there’s already a lot of production cost and production effort that they have to put in every post. So I think we’re you know we’re pretty well known for making that process easy and being one of the easiest platform out there for for interacting with the brand really.

S3: So if I were a brand and I had a campaign where I wanted to find 200 influencers to promote this product take me through the steps of making that campaign from approaching ya to the very end post May maybe influences yes.

S13: So you know I think one one common misconception is with especially brands who haven’t worked with influencers is that they think that it’s gonna be really easy and straightforward and I really it’s a lot more like herding cats than you and you want when you want to believe.

S4: So you start working with the brand we find out a what are your goals here. Do you want really awesome content to power your ads. Do you need to drive foot traffic to a cool pop up that you have at Coachella. Do you have a really awesome new product that you want to get in front of a very specific subset of customers. So we can hash that out with the brand and figuring out the strategy upfront is one of the most important things that we can do when working with a company. So we come up with exactly what we want the influencers to do. We create a creative brief and then we make sure that we have the right incentive. So yeah if you’re a brand and you want 25 awesome photos and one video like we’re going to make sure that we’re not just giving them a pair of sneakers.

S13: So making sure that and also we have the best influencers possible to work with that brand and then we we get that creative briefing in front of a bunch of influencers that we’ve handpicked and we know the brands can be excited about them. We start just having conversations making sure that the influencer like is really excited about the brand the product and that’s huge. Making sure that they are genuinely psyched about what they’re gonna do. I think we’ve all seen really bad influencer marketing where you’re like well that’s a stretch like they should not have promoted plan and believe that actually.

S4: Exactly so I’m making sure that they’re actually like true fans fans of the brand. Fans the product and we make sure we can answer all their questions and make sure that we’re all good to go and that everyone you know it’s like a submarine you know the brand psyched about this person and and then this influencer psyched about this brand too. And then we get the content you know sometimes the brand approves it sometimes they don’t depending on you know what the what the creative brief in the strategy is and then influencers post we measure and see like OK what worked really well here what didn’t work well here. According to the goals of the brand and then how we we optimize and we say OK let’s keep working with these influencers let’s not work with these influencers we saw you know moms with children ages 2 to 5 who live in these states like their content was awesome and performed extremely well. So let’s work with more people like that. And so then it really becomes you know a true marketing campaign where we figure out what’s what works and what doesn’t. And we keep going from there. The idea is to really build a network of influencers around the brand. So it’s not like one post and you never you never hear about that influence or talking about that brand ever again. If they really like them we want to make sure that you know they become a true brand ambassador.

S9: So how do you match the influencer with a brand does the influencer kind of say I would love to work with brands like a sneaker brand or a fitness brand or a wellness brand. Or does the brand say I want an influencer who does X Y and Z.

S4: So it’s really a two sided thing. The brand has used these specific people in mind specific types of consumers they want to get in front of and then on the other hand the influencer has to be just really excited and like hey I love this brand. I use them already. I want to recommend the thing they’re doing. I am psyched to actually work with them rather than speaking about them organically. So it’s it’s really a two sided thing and when it’s not two sided it’s easy for it to be kind of bad influence marketing. So you need that you need that genuine authenticity. And I think that word gets thrown around a lot but when you have it and it’s there I mean the performance of that that content is just so much higher.

S14: It’s a real art. And that’s that’s really something that we put a lot of attention to you really got to make sure that at the same time people are interested in each other and you’re not trying to stretch one party towards the other. And so there is a lot of things that go into that process of making people get together at the same time.

S9: A lot of things that go into that. Yeah.

S8: What are some of the things that go into making sure that kind of on the same page focusing on products and really talking with influencer about the products that they’re going to talk about. It’s very important and not simply focusing on payments showing the brands influencers that are already interested instead of giving them access to giant databases of random people that may or may not match those are some of the of the of the tricks that go into it.

S4: Yeah I think another big thing is really figuring out and working with the influencer to come up with what story they want to tell around a brand or a product. And so it’s really you know here’s my ideal road trip in this car or you know here’s when I wear this jean jacket and feel awesome and make sure that it’s a true story to them rather than hey here’s exactly prescriptive lead like what we want you to do in a way that doesn’t ring true. So when your audience is scrolling on Instagram or say they’re on tick tock or say they’re on YouTube and they come across this post they’re like oh this is just like their other posts. This is clearly who this person is I’m psyched to see. Call they’re collaborating with Levi’s. That’s awesome. You know like that’s it. That’s the ideal reaction. So I’m going to work backward from that type of reaction that makes a lot of sense.

S9: So obviously is the platform but it seems like there’s a lot of face to face or person to person communication. How do those two things kind of balanced.

S4: Yeah definitely. So I think that’s kind of our our secret sauce element is that we have this great tech platform that makes it really easy for us to work with a lot of people but each individual person feels really special and they know that when they ask a question over email or tax they’re going to get they’re going to get a response right back from their account manager who usually they know pretty well and they’ve worked with previously. So the idea is kind of how do you scale relationships and make the people of the brand feel special and also make the each influencer feel special. And I think that as the space has really grown the strategic element has it become so much more important. We’re actually doing way more strategy than we were doing you know three years ago when people were just testing it out and they’re like oh let’s just send out a bunch of products and see what happens. I think now the space is advanced so much where they’re like Oh cool. Like what are we doing that’s like cutting edge what are we doing that that audiences are gonna think is awesome.

S8: It’s funny because the strategist in our in our team is somewhat famous now when we go to event every pore between influencers and and the strategist is is really important and then and and really put them almost at the celebrity level and the influencer community sometimes.

S9: That’s incredible. I would never think that kind of a brand strategies would end up being a celebrity but that makes sense. So much is based off of how well a campaign does. How do you measure how if something’s working and if it’s not.

S4: So it really depends on what the goals of the brand are. If it’s hey we we really need to see you know direct sales from these posts we’re looking to see like did this product move like are are we able to sell this product which influencers are selling the most of the product. If it’s more of a brand awareness play you know how much engagement did this person’s post generate and who were the people who were actually engaging with that content. If the brand you know just is really hungry for awesome photos and videos on line because they you know can’t create enough and then fast enough we make sure that that kind of they’re getting is is the best and it’s performing really well when they put it on their own channels.

S9: It seems like know we really only kind of the forefront of what brands want to do in terms of ad campaigns. Now what are some of the general would say directives that you would say brands have started adding in more. I guess from a consumer’s perspective I’ve seen brands start looking for more diverse talent on a more consistent basis or they’re looking for not necessarily like Kim Carr dashing in to support them they’re looking for someone who’s smaller but are there any other general trends you seen brands just really kind of go after you in the past few years.

S4: I mean I would say that the trend towards more diversity and trying to see the average consumer and all shapes and sizes and what that consumer looks like can be is a quote unquote real person rather than just a model. It’s something that has been really like warmed my heart in the past few years. I mean when we first started the company a lot of fashion and beauty brands were like oh we basically just want models. We want models who are also on Instagram Give me the Instagram model and we’re like we’re not we’re not a model agency. We look we have a lot of people who are just genuinely really cool interesting people who you know look like however they look like.

S13: And the fact that the fact that brands are like That’s awesome or like we want more diversity or like you know these posts are too beautiful or like these people are too fashionable or like you know they’re too one thing let’s get a ton of different perspectives.

S11: That has been you know just awesome to me to really see like oh wow you know this is now you know a normal person who is you know a high schooler in Tulsa Oklahoma can actually you know be the face of unique flow you know in this ad campaign on Instagram like Who would’ve thought I really do. Right.

S9: Yes I mean brands actually say this is too polished. We don’t want that.

S4: Oh yeah. That’s actually happening quite a bit now in 2019. The big thing I think especially with Tick Talk and looking at how you know Gen Z use Instagram and creates content that it like has way fewer filters you don’t have to look you know super polished and you know like you’re about to walk a red carpet. Brands are like oh that’s a little bit too polished like we want more someone just like normal raw. That was a random selfie they took which I think is really cool.

S6: And the opposite of I mean when I was in high school everything was like airbrushed to like nothing to the point of like not recognizing anyone who is that celebrity in that ad I can’t even tell.

S13: So I think that’s that’s awesome.

S8: And it’s crazy how people engage with this content. You know before it was really just beautiful and very polished content. But you know tick tock the engagements are just huge. It’s just so many.

S3: Tell me a little bit more about tick tock. I feel like that’s one of the platforms I was really interested in kind of going to this season because I don’t understand it. I think it’s maybe the first platform that I just am like OK we’re not we’re not going to we’re not gonna understand what’s going on there.

S12: I know it’s the first platform like OK maybe you need to study this because like you’re not you’re not in high school. This might not be for you but you need to know it. So I was like I’ve crossed into a new age category but I think a lot of brand managers honestly like feel that way too. They’re like Tell me more about this tick tock you should download it and then you’re going to waste five hours. Yeah yeah. You’re going to go down a wormhole so get ready.

S4: Yeah I mean I think it’s it’s really interesting in that it is short form looped videos and the tech behind it is actually so sophisticated in terms of understanding what you’re going to like what you’re going to respond to and what you’re not that it seems really simple and straightforward but it’s actually there’s a whole lot going on in the back end of that app and also it’s pretty hard as a creator to do six second video. You know it’s like that there should be a little narrative arc and usually it has to be pretty funny. And even though maybe it’s not the most polished thing ever and it’s usually you know some high schooler like in their room or in their living room and you know Hank on the football field they dance. It’s it’s hard to actually make like a whole little story in that and to get really really good at it and to have ideas around like new six second videos all the time is actually such an art form so it’s cool to see that there’s this whole new group of creators that’s doing something totally different than you know maybe a a more staged Instagram photo or something it’s a little bit easier to create on a daily basis.

S3: So a lot of people take soccer a lot younger. What is it like working. Are there different rules for working with high schoolers. I would assume they are working with you know adults who are legal.

S6: Yeah definitely.

S4: I mean we we have some great lawyers and we make sure no one signing anything that they you know aren’t legally able to and we talked to a lot of parents do I think that’s a big thing about why relationships are so important is because it’s one thing if you’re talking to you know a 30 year old and asking them if they’ve any questions are on a creative brief. It’s another thing you’re talking to a 16 year old who’s also the phone with their mom and making sure. Are you comfortable with talking about this BD brand. And in this way. And do you understand what this means. So I think that that’s why the relationship aspect is just is so key. But yeah it’s I mean all these young people like wanna be influencers now and that wasn’t even a thing. You know it’s like everyone wanted to be an actor musician or like someone famous in that capacity. Now it’s like I have high schoolers coming out to me be like how do I become an influencer. Like how do I get that next brand deal. Like how do I get you know where I’m making thousands of dollars or can not have another job. So it’s a it’s a pretty cool conversation to be having I was just an industry that didn’t exist five years ago.

S3: It’s like the Wild West. Yes.

S8: And those platforms grow so fast there that we’re going to see more pop up. It’s gonna be rather interesting to see next year the year after after that what what’s going to be big. This one grew in just a few months especially in the US.

S4: I mean we won influence or rework. She has 3 million followers. She’s 18 years old and she’s growing by 20000 followers every week. Well you know that’s a growth that it’s not possible on Instagram or YouTube like you just it’s absolutely it’s impossible.

S10: So there’s a big opportunity here.

S3: That’s absolutely crazy. What at what point in a platform’s growth do y’all kind of sit down and say ah we have to understand what’s happening here and I feel like new social media platforms kind of come up every so often you’re like like I remember Peach was a thing maybe like six years ago actually it didn’t become a thing. So at what point are y’all like All right this makes sense for us to invest time notwithstanding understanding and this platform is probably going to be a bit of a dud.

S4: I think there are a few things one is you know what type of content are people creating on it. And is that something that makes sense for brands to get involved in. I think a good example of that there is you know there’s like a social network that just launched that was like totally like uncensored. I was like No brand is ever gonna. And it was shut down like the next day because people were selling drugs on it.

S6: So you’re like OK cool. So moving on to the next big thing and I think another thing is really understanding just.

S4: Are they going to be competitive and is this going to this is a place where you know this platforms can be around for a while and a lot of Americans don’t realize that ticktock has more employees than Facebook. You know it is like a giant company and they’re you know they want to buy snapchat like they’re they’re in it to win it and there’s a real like muscle behind behind that. And so we’re like OK. That’s very interesting. And then just like Can people really grow and will people stay once they once they’re on it. So we were tracking a lot of user behavior when they get on the app and then because the the users were always there way before the brands. I think like only now have brands really. And we started doing a lot of brand work on tech talk before it was like let’s just make sure this is a viable thing for influencers and another platform wants influencer marketing to be on it. I think that’s a big thing like there was a real moment where we thought Snapchat was gonna be a lot there’s a lot more influencer work there but they really came out and said we don’t want we don’t want to support influencer work. You know we want brands to become publishers and have channels on Snapchat and there is going to be very little reach and growth you really can only communicate to people you actually know. So really. Okay. Cool I guess we’re not going to do much here.

S9: How much do you kind of think about the ethics behind these social media platforms like any about tick tock which is owned by China and has kind of their own scandals with privacy concerns and then Facebook had that big Cambridge analytics thing two years ago as a brand that’s really involved in social media. How much thinking goes into like supporting these platforms.

S4: I mean I think about ethics all the time. I was actually I was a philosophy major and studied a lot about ethics and bioethics and did a whole like my whole thesis was on bioethics and so I think about on a very abstract level as well as a very practical level. And I think that’s really why we focus on let’s make sure that the creators we work with know what they’re doing. They are in control and you know they can say yes or no to any brand work at any time and let’s just constantly re-evaluate what we’re doing and how we’re working on that platform and if we feel good about all of that and these influencers feel good about what they’re doing then we’re good. But let’s kind of always be evaluating because it’s been a crazy time in tech in general. You know it’s not just social media it’s literally like every tech company that’s that’s pretty big is has been embroiled in a lot of issues you know like we’re using it like 20 19 we’re in a crazy time.

S8: Yeah absolutely well I had the big ideas always to be transparent and kind of have the open conversation with the influencers with the brand. We talk about this all the time. There’s there’s so much happening not only on the platform level but was brands that you might want to work with or don’t want to work with which happens often. So you know we turned down campaigns were turned down brands when it really doesn’t match our values and that’s important to have somewhat of a compass. So we talked about it often.

S3: Is there anything that would make your say we’re not going to work on Instagram anymore because it’s done X Y and c I mean yeah I’m sure there is something.

S13: I’m sure they would do.

S4: It’s in the realm of possibility that like something would happen and we’re like oh we’re not going to we’re not going to do this anymore. I think that’s why we’re always looking at what is the next platform. You know how do we diversify in a way that makes sense for influencers and for brands just to make sure that. Yeah. You know things change and there are a lot of companies trying to navigate and figure out the social media landscape in general. So let’s make sure we’re always on the right side of that. But it’s super evolved. I mean it’s it’s just the space is evolving so quickly that a large part of my time and Max’s time is dedicated to figuring out OK. Like where is this platform going. What is happening on it and how do we make sure that you know we’re doing the best job possible.

S14: This idea of influence has been here for a while and you know it’s gonna take many shapes and form and Instagram is one of them. And you know we hope it’s here to stay but it’s gonna be there’s gonna be all the ways tick tock is is one avenue where there’s gonna be other platforms it’s gonna be other ways people are going to do this whether what has happened over the past few years is this realization that not just celebrities can actually talk about you know cool products and cool brands. There’s this idea that you know it can be decentralized as long as you can manage the conversation with tons and tons of people at the same time so that can take many shapes many forms and I were actually excited to see what’s what’s next.

S15: How’s that gonna look like in the next few years.

S13: Yeah I think one really cool trend that we’re seeing is that brands are wanting to do a lot more in real life like RL activations with influencers. So whether that’s you know they have an experiential pop up or they have a really cool dinner party and they want to you know meet with the influencers face to face form real relationships and really have it be about hey this is this person and this is the type of content they create and this is type person they are they could go on any platform at any time like we know them and we think they’re awesome and we just want to have a relationship with the person behind the account. And I think that’s been just such a cool trend to see.

S9: I mean we were all there for like you know really fun cool parties and an actual in-person campaigns like those are the kind of things that I think actually make a brand seem real versus just you’re trying to sell me something as my corporate overload. Totally totally. The thing about Instagram is social media that is really cool to me is that it seems like democratized fame in a way and that seems like the influencer industry in general and there’s kind of a low barrier to entry. And it is as you said decentralized but what are kind of some of the pitfalls that you’ve seen come along with that model.

S4: I mean I think one thing that’s really interesting is now you know a large percentage of the world’s population has a camera in their pocket and can literally document their entire life if they wanted to like one in the history of the world other than like you know people are really to drawing has that.

S6: Has that ever happened. It came exactly viral. You know yeah the most influential like you know cave painter.

S4: So yeah I think that we’re in a really interesting time just in terms of that and the fact that you can you could document your entire life and the more content and you create that is high enough quality the more your audience is going to respond to it and your audience will grow in size. I think we’re we’re getting to a point.

S16: You see this with with a number of very large macro influencers where they are just creating so much content and they’re also growing up as people that we’re kind of entering an unknown territory where it’s like OK you’re 21 you’ve been doing this since you were 15 on YouTube and you’ve been you know like the Dolan twins came out this week and they’re like we’ve been creating a video like once a week since we were 14 like we just need to step away from this like crazy schedule and this demand from our followers to like really see into every aspect of their life in a way that it’s like wow that’s Yeah.

S6: No one has ever had to deal with that before like a celebrity doesn’t deal with that.

S16: And again a film star can you know make a movie and kind of pop into the public frame and and you know go on the Tonight Show and do when they do and then and then retreat back to their like home in L.A. for a while and chill out.

S4: I think now people who are influencers because of these social platforms because of their they’re documenting their day to day presence it does raise the question of like cool what next. And like what does this mean for you. And that’s I mean it’s been a really cool interesting question and challenged to work through. I think for a number of influencers it’s hey let’s you know create a brand. Let’s you know do you want to create a clothing line. Do you want to pretend makeup line. Do you want to create a shoe line. Do you want to create like an iPhone case line whatever it may be but like you know or do you want to create a content publication or do you wanna go on tour like there are a lot of different ways to kind of play this this enthusiasm around your brand on the social platform. Let’s just figure out what that means and what does it mean in 2020. And you know going forward. So it’s pretty cool because it’s it’s unwritten.

S9: Yeah I’ve noticed a lot of influencers like Jackie Ayana and Mike Batman rock partnering with like Anastasia Beverly Hills and all these other brands and that seems kind of like the end goal for a lot of influences now where it’s less like I don’t just want to be selling this product I want to make this product. It’s like a really cool change.

S4: Yeah. I mean a lot of these influencers realize that wow I have a platform you know like I say I’m going to be on this street corner at this time 20000 people could show up. You know it’s like oh I have a real power and sway here. What does that mean. And I think the the jump to becoming an entrepreneur is so cool and so admirable and we’re all here for it. We’re like hey how can we help you do that. You know like let’s you know we’ve built a business like this let’s help you do the same.

S9: So you mentioned that you macro time has kind of spent on thinking about these platforms but what else does. Yes. Day to day look like. Like what’s the day in the life of a CEO and a CPO.

S4: Obviously look like every day’s is pretty different. I think it’s kind of it’s always a balance between thinking really high level pretty abstract. What is the future of Instagram and then like coming back from lunch being like oh hey look you know this brand wants to do x y z are able to execute in two days. Like do we need to hire somebody to do that. And and just kind of getting pulled back to the minutia that is also super important. So it’s really that balance of like super macro and super micro and then kind of volleying between the two you know and I think that’s what we enjoy.

S15: I mean we complain a lot about it. We enjoy kind of tying both hands you know being able to think big and sit sit back and say even even bigger what’s the future of influencer marketing. And then and then go back. And for me it’s go back to coding go back to programming and spend my days building more more of the superpower platform you know how is you have these changed as the company has grown.

S4: So I used to have around eight to 10 brand pitches a day. I mean I was like Max can tell you he didn’t talk to me.

S6: I feel like I is like 9:00 or 10:00 at night.

S4: I was the only salesperson and I was just like really running around in kind of a crazy pace but I really loved that because I could hear exactly what brands questions were what they were interested in what they weren’t interested in and hey look what are we. What are we building in terms of you know the brand work that they want to see. So that was awesome at that time. I think now it’s all about managing the people who are doing that and making sure that where we’re doing right by the brands are doing right by the influencers. And we’re growing in the smartest way possible as these platforms change and as marketing departments at these brands change too. So it’s it’s really cool like complex challenges all the time.

S6: And then it can make your brain hurt and you get tired and then you have to take a nap and then you’re good to go for success.

S10: Yeah it’s a fun exercise though.

S14: Going from you know the two of us hacking it out really finding solution coming up with those grand ideas you know fast forward a few years later.

S17: How do you make this a real large company. How do you actually go after the market in a very big way. And it’s it’s a completely different exercise.

S8: How do you find the best talents you know on both coasts because is in New York I’m in San Francisco and how do you build a team that really mirrors your values your work ethic your you know your vision of the space. It’s not an easy exercise but it’s a fun one.

S3: I’m really curious how did your skill play How did what was the business plan when you first started and how many employees did you start with and how many do you have now.

S4: I mean I started in my pre Max but I started my apartment and we had four employees and we were just things and we’re doing social media management. And then when we really know the true obviously came to be and Max and I started working together we were four people and we’re just I think we knew from the beginning that we needed to really understand what brands wanted and what they were willing to spend on. And then also at the same time understand what influencers wanted to do and to be able to make those two things work together. We’ve seen a number of companies come right out of the gate only focus on what influencers wanted to do and it’s like well that’s great. But also like if we then can’t get them any brand work has brands aren’t willing to sign up for that. That doesn’t work either.

S13: And so it’s really about the balance between you know how are we showing the most value to brands to really get them excited to work with these awesome creators who have built their followings out of nothing and making sure that it’s we’re structuring deals that an influencer can be really excited about too and it really benefits them. And elevates them rather than you know there is any perception of them selling out in any way. So it’s always kind of been that that balance. But I think really going after large brands who really want to experiment and really understood the space and understood the importance of having like really awesome influencers tell their stories and not just the brand telling their story themselves all the time was who was huge and was really the key for for our growth. I think the other key is that we were so tech focused from the beginning and that you know Max just built something that worked extremely well.

S10: Thanks. Yeah.

S17: We’re also very focused on the on hiring you know experience people and and keeping our teams smaller than what it would be on average in any other company and the idea there is to be very reactive to a space that changes every day. So having teams that you know are not just set in their ways. This is what I wanted to do. This is exactly what I’m going to do in the next few years. But having teams are able to kind of adapt to whatever is needed this year to actually answer the problem at hand which is you know brands need to activate new types of influencers brands need to work in a different way influencers actually need more help with the tedious ness of working with the campaign. So being able to constantly re shift you know our focus is has been really a key focus on on how we grow our teams.

S9: Do you feel a little bit more about influencers needing help with the tedious ness of the campaign. That’s not really something I’ve ever really thought about.

S8: I mean the ability to you know work with us without having to do multiple back and forth whereas you know their posts being able to give them some very clear creative brief. Some some examples on how to work are given them some easy tools to present their work to the brand so they are pre-approved before they post everything that we can do to limit the amount of time they have to spend with that interface and really focus on producing the best content that they can really having a genuine experience was the product or was to brand themselves. That’s the kind of tools that we’re building you know on the influencer side. We’re really always like to say that we deal with the complexity of dealing with the brands when we’re talking to influencers and when we’re talking to brands we’re really trying to deal with the complexity of talking to 100 to 100 500 influencers on the same week so that they all do the same thing at the same time. So that’s that’s why we’re trying to solve.

S4: Yeah I think a really good example of that is we were working with influencers and realized that it was really hard for them to know when they were going to receive their packages and then if like it was the right size shirt or if it was the right color lipstick or it was the right makeup palette that they wanted or pay.

S6: This is you know golf clubs and I’m left handed and I need to let you know whatever means my kids it’s clearly not going to authentic if you’re like not using the right hand golf clubs.

S13: So we actually decide to own the entire process and we have fulfillment centers where a brand will send us all of the product that they want to talk about in a campaign and then we’ll actually send everything out to the influencer so we can really report back very quickly very simply hey you’re going to receive this package on this time or like hey what colored do you want. What size do you want. And then they can send it back to us really easily two and do it all within a timeframe that makes sense for a campaign. That’s something it sounds you know kind of like a random detail but it’s actually extremely important when you’re working at scale. And for these influencers who might be working with numerous brands at the same time it’s a huge hassle if they don’t know where to send something back to. So we’re kind of like how do we just take each of those things and just like make them that much easier and that much more seamless for the influencer and ends up saving a ton of time. And we get a lot of goodwill in return.

S10: Yeah yeah.

S7: They say I want to participate in three business days they get a package on their door where we’ve built a mini Amazon fulfillment pipeline right there and it’s been fun to build to from my side.

S3: Wow when did your build that like what. And while you’re in the company did ya decide. Oh we definitely need a fulfillment center. Was very early on. Right.

S4: Yeah I think was in the second year we were realizing that usually there is pretty tight timelines on that on the brands end but also a lot of marketing teams actually couldn’t mail out the amount of product that you think that they would because their warehouse was attached to their e-commerce team. And their Web site but it wasn’t you know the marketing team.

S6: Like I don’t know how to mail a package or you know.

S13: I was actually I was pitching like eight brands a day and I was like Why are there so many boxes in the marketing teams like like area and they’re like oh yeah I had I was here to like eleven I was like boxing up stuff and I was like but you work with more influencers if you didn’t have to literally stay here till 11:00 at night.

S6: And you know there’s like a single to your role like the junior marketing manager chick and she’s like I would love that. I would work with so many more. And we’re like Let’s do it let’s do it. We’re ready you guys.

S7: She. And that would mean if they would wait the last moment to they would wait for everybody to have given their choices and their addresses. So we always were running off that.

S8: You know after time because because it was it was always last minute but yeah. And that first that first fulfillment center was my apartment.

S4: I know. And he was like It’s not a warehouse man like it is a warehouse.

S10: It is our warehouse. You call it your home. I call it a warehouse. Do you think it’s your home. Yes. Wow.

S3: So at what point do you think you kind of went from the mindset of this is like a small business to like this is this is a big thing.

S16: I mean I think even from that first you know Clow campaign where we’re like a thousand people cool. This was really great.

S13: We really saw that there was huge potential here. So we always had the mindset that this could grow really quickly we just need to do it right and we need to understand and we. When you understand where these platforms are going and what these brands want to do and what the influencers want to do and I think once you kind of get all three parties heard from and you know and really understand that then we can have an awesome strategy and grow really quickly. And I think that’s that’s really been the secret to our success.

S18: We’ve looked at the pain points and there were so many at the beginning that you know we felt there was going to be enough work for years to come with all the obvious that there is and people will super excited about it.

S7: So so we went for it.

S9: What are some of the changes in the industry that y’all are really excited to see.

S4: I think that it’s not. I mean when I would pitch a brand three years ago a lot of the conversation would be around what is influencer marketing. Is this a legitimate thing.

S6: Some skepticism are you trying to scam me. Exactly.

S4: You know it was like and I was like Yeah it’s literally you know I hear all the results from our campaigns here all are like super satisfied brand clients here all these influencers we love working with us like they like we have a really strong case for why this works so well and not having to deal with this isn’t head on on a day to day basis and instead having brands be like we know this works we need to do it in a lot smarter way we want it.

S13: We want to be on the cutting edge we want to do the coolest things possible with these influencers. I think that change has been really validating no one but also just really fun. Oh I’m not just convincing you that this works. I’m now trying to come up with the coolest and best strategy for this brand in particular possible. You know like brands are coming to us like hey is there an influencer who would want to you know make a brand with us. So it’s like not only you know a collaboration with them but they’re actually like their name is on you know every pot and pan like you know are on this bottle of cashew milk.

S6: Really cool. This is like I didn’t even think of that like let’s do it like you’re getting creative now. I love it.

S8: I’m also really excited about the this idea that the concept of influence is starting to permeate you know more and more social networks more places you know in real life experiences may was saying earlier ticktock but you know more and more this idea of influence is not confined to one platform to one type of beauty or fashion campaign. You know people are starting to realize how maybe I could do this there maybe I could do this for my own brand that is neither beauty nor fashion. And you know we just scratched the surface there was so much that’s going to that’s going to happen you know in that space beyond what we already know what is some of the misconceptions that you see brands come into conversations with influencers.

S3: You said when you first started you were kind of explaining this is not a scam but are there things that brands kind of think working with influencers is going to be like that you have to kind of disabuse them of a notion.

S13: I think it’s been changing really quickly and brands have learned a lot about how to best work with influencers. I think you know one big thing is having a having a creative ask from an influencer that’s just really outside the realm of like you know what’s acceptable or accurate what they’re willing to pay you know hey can you do five videos and edit them all. And do that in 24 hours. And you know we’re going to have you know 10 versions of edits and we’re basically to treat you like you know our creative agency. That is something that we feel like okay. This is not how you work with this person because you’re not trying to just create your commercial. You’re trying to have this person talk about you in the way that makes sense for them and for their audience. And some brands you know we really need to educate them on that and other brands like you know now really really understand that I think another thing is just really developing relationships and longer term engagements with a lot of these influencers rather than just doing hey will work with them once and then we’ll never work with them again or never talk to them again. I think that’s actually you know it’s really sad for a lot of people once there’s good there’s like I’m psyched to work with this brand.

S12: Awesome. And then like did we get any feedback on that. Like do they like the post that I created and you’re like Yeah they did.

S16: They just didn’t respond. So now we have like hey you know you need to come up the long term strategy of how you’re gonna work with influencers over the long term so that the influencers audiences realize oh it wasn’t just a one time paid post. This influencer really likes this brand and they’re working with them you know three or four times a year or or more.

S15: Yeah. And four five years ago too I think the the big make up misconception was that you know it was gonna be easy. Everything’s easy. And I could do it myself. We’re trying to convince brand that it’s actually not easy.

S7: And and you know the tech could it could help a lot there. Now I feel everybody has tried at least once they insist that shipping packages and talking to 100 people at the same time making sure that people really align with the creative brief and the vision of the campaign.

S8: It’s not an easy thing so I feel like that’s not a battle we’re seeing often. So that’s that’s great.

S6: That feels like really vindicating where you just flag you trying to tell you. It’s been good. We haven’t been to. Know like awesome we’re psyched dawg. Now let’s do this privately told you so.

S4: What is it like explaining your job to your parents. My parents follow me on Instagram so I feel like they have a good sense of what we’re doing and why I’m always running around everywhere.

S7: I feel like the first couple of years my parents had a hard time understanding how it’s doing and we’re asking me again and every phone call or every Christmas party it was like Max why don’t you tell everybody else what you’re doing because we don’t really know. But now I think they’re really they really understand that they really love it. They’re super excited for us.

S9: Do you have a five year business plan and if you do what are some of things you’re not really excited to put on the ground.

S13: We have so many big plans. I think that one really big thing is understanding what’s next for a lot of influencers who built up really awesome audiences and have like really great communities around them and understanding what is next for. For the way they work with brands and a big thing we’re seeing is brands not just working with micro influencers or just working with macro influencers or celebrities but how are they working with each level of influencer and how are they doing that in the best way possible over the long term. You know I think a lot of brands right now are very much in a campaign mindset. But how do you get them to the point where they’re like This is an ongoing part of your strategy. We should have a three to five year plan with you with the brand and really explain that to the influencers. And so that’s the thing we’re really working on now is like what is that longer term vision look like for brands and how do we make sure that we’re we’re setting them up and educating them and really putting them in a place of success.

S17: And you know how do you build teams also that are going to be able to once again react to an ever changing space. How do we how do we actually we don’t know exactly what the space is going to look like in five years but we can actually build teams and processes that are gonna make us really good at you know solving the problem then and really enabling the brands to take the most out of this space in five years. That’s that’s a big focus for us.

S9: Seems like you feel where you kind of constantly always have to be learning like you can’t get comfortable really and that’s fine.

S6: Yeah I know I have to be on ticktock for three hours and like every day. So we’ve got to you know I’ve got to put in my time.

S16: I to understand the meme of the day and make sure that we’re know we’re on top of it.

S3: I love it. Could you just quickly define the difference in a micro influence on a macro influencer except how to use that term a few times and I don’t know if people actually know the difference.

S16: Yeah. So a micro influencer is anyone kind of under 75000 followers.

S13: This that’s the obviously definition and then you talk to a few different a few different agencies you probably get like a different place where they put the bar and actually that bar is changing. It’s usually someone before they get a manager over they have a talent agent who is negotiating on their behalf is kind of the more loose definition not tied to a follower count and then macro is. Is anyone above that point. So you know they’re in it in terms of like this is a real career path for me. And you know maybe they don’t they don’t have another source of income and there is going for it.

S15: And nowadays you have Nanos to the coming.

S10: What is that threshold.

S16: So that’s really under under 5000 followers. Yep.

S13: And so the idea there is if we work with a large enough number of influencers who have you know less than 5000 followers but they’re all reaching you know a high percentage of their of their own followers individually every time they post we can target extremely narrow interests in groups of people at the same time. So say you want to go after you know people are really into mountain biking and let’s find you know a thousand influencers who have less than 5000 followers but all they do is post about mountain biking. No one’s gonna be following that person if they’re not psyched about one bike.

S4: So it’s just so. So it’s all about scale first size of audience. But usually when you’re someone who has a much smaller audience your engagement is much higher. I mean sometimes there people would like 30 percent 40 percent allow 50 percent engagement. So it becomes like extremely cost efficient if you’re able to manage the scale which we can. So that’s been really cool to play around with different types of campaigns with different size influencers and different types of audiences and also different affinity groups to like you know are mountain bikers way more into like the influencer content. Are they going to buy more mountain bikes than someone who sells you know bath towels. So it’s like we’re learning we’re figuring it out.

S3: Yeah. Have you seen bigger brands want to start reaching those niche audiences more often.

S13: Yeah definitely. That’s been a huge focus for a lot of brands. Like how do I just get in front of that group. You know they’re so reliant right now on on Facebook ads they’re so reliant on ECM and Google ads Amazon ads but you know you saturate that at some point there’s like you just can’t spend anymore or it’s not cost efficient to do so. So how is doing in front of them in a real way. And so that’s been an awesome challenge to work through.

S14: It’s that decentralization process that is really a continuum.

S8: You know it started with celebrities on TV and then macro influencers and then micro and then and then you know now we realize nano is is interesting and there is a lot to do there. And I think it’s going to continue. It’s just every time your scale goes up so your challenges in organizing it and becomes more complicated. But the rewards are typically better.

S3: Yeah everything is moving so fast on social media. It’s like really hard to keep up. But it’s very easy really. Yeah. You know it’s like every day like what’s going to happen today. Yeah you like reach you like oh I understand social media and then you’re like No I don’t I don’t get it.

S10: Once you say that. Yeah exactly. Then you realize no no no.

S14: We get a list of articles to read every week and and it’s just a giant laundry lists of things that happens every week. You gotta read this. You get it. Check this out. This just happened. It’s great.

S9: Wow.

S16: Like constantly being in school which I love. That’s that’s awesome. You know what if we were in a I would say to myself what do we were you were in like the chemical industry or something like hasn’t changed in like 100 years like what’s it like or crazy innovation only happens you know every six months whereas US it’s literally like on a weekly basis.

S3: So my last question is what is a really come with conception of your job like what’s one thing about your job that you wish people would understand but they don’t.

S13: I think one thing about my job that’s really interesting and something that I wish a lot more people knew was that every single part of being the head of a company is a learned it’s a learned activity and you know I think there’s a lot of idealization of CEOs and founders like and in kind of a weird way it’s like you’re not born into it.

S6: It’s not a star is born lady gaga.

S16: You’re literally you’re literally figuring out how to how to build a business what’s working and what’s not. You’re analyzing that you’re figuring out what you’re good at what you’re not good at. You bring people in who are good at the things that you’re never gonna be good at. You improve the things that you have to and you know you’re constantly figuring out how do you grow this company in a sustainable way.

S13: And I think when you explain being an entrepreneur to someone in that way rather than like we’re the billion dollar unicorn I had the best pitch and I was on Shark Tank like it really meant a lot more accessible to a lot of people who I think would be actually amazing entrepreneurs and could be just launching really really cool companies but they don’t see themselves as like the natural born leader in elementary school. And so I think that I wish more people would would know that I think you’d get to get a lot more women. You get a lot more people in general who are awesome who could be amazing leaders of companies.

S15: For me it’s you know coming from the Silicon Valley point of view it’s it’s this idea that there is only one way to build a startup. It’s you know to lose money for many many years and then to get tons of people on your platform and then eventually to figure out how things work and we kind of took things a little differently where we would build a real business and some people are shocked by that.

S8: And it’s you know it’s it’s not the same schema as everybody else. It’s not you know raising tons of money. It’s just building a solid business since the beginning and growing with the business. And it’s been really key for us to always focus on what’s important for clients and influencers and less for you know investors or third parties that would you know give you a different metric to chase and to go after. So you know I always constantly say you know there’s something into building a real business.

S10: It’s crazy. Now the best advice is always the one where you like Oh of course.

S3: Obviously you have you. Yes.

S10: And that is great.

S3: Exactly. Thank you all so much for coming on. Thank you so much. This was awesome. Thank you.

S2: That’s it for this episode of Working. Thanks for listening. I’m your host Rachel Hampton. Special thank you to Justin do you write for the Arab music. Thank you so much. Our producer Jasmine Molly. Please remember it’s a rate review and subscribe on Apple podcasts. And if you have any questions or feedback you can reach us at working at Slate dot com. Join us next week for another episode on influencers.